Spheres of Glass: Re-imagining Aesthetics of Nature and the Social

Installation View: Judith Hopf, Detroit Tree of Heaven Woodshop, Leslie Thornton and Ron Vawter

Exhibition accompanied by a series of programs and publication Unweave #4
Curated by Katrin Pesch and Tim Ridlen
Visual Arts Gallery, University of California San Diego, April 17 – June 6, 2014

Spheres of Glass set out to think about aesthetic forms and practices that circumscribe the social within the material world and address issues brought about by the history of industrial modernity that haunt the present. Some of the artworks in the show are framed by the prospect of ruination. Others extend the definition of the environmental beyond nature while constructing practicable solutions to contemporary problems. The aesthetic strategies represented here describe and imagine rather than reveal and explain the social construction through mimesis, tactility, and dialogue. One stumbles over concepts like stumbling over stones. One can get entangled in seasonal branches or in theoretical discourse. Scientific theoretical knowledge is not deducted from but generated by social interaction with the material world, and vice versa. The two realms of mind and matter or nature and culture are always helplessly intertwined. Put in historical perspective, it seems that the Western drive to progress endorsed by enlightenment culture and solidified within industrial modernity, once again, finds itself vis-á-vis a steep rock face.

Departing from the re-evaluation of the nature/culture dichotomy within the disciplines of science and humanities, Spheres of Glass takes on problems of being in the world created by the “abstract” theoretical scientific conceptualizations and the “actual” social interaction with material culture. Multiple planes intersect in these discourses. On the one hand, they reflect a widespread frustration with critical theoretical approaches in their various guises centered on unveiling the social construction of reality. On the other hand, refracted through imminent threats of environmental crisis, they seek out workable solutions to material problems. Natural and cultural forces shape the material world just as much as social imaginaries. While it is important to reconsider who or what participates in the assembly of a social collective, attempts to de-center the subject cannot come at the expense of working to overcome social inequalities. Re-thinking the notions of nature and culture thus implies changing our understanding of environmental crisis so as not to divert attention from social realities or replace problems of contemporary society that remain unsolved.

Guest Speaker and Film Program

Vivian Sobchack
Stop + Motion: On Animation, Inertia, and Innervation
April 23, 2014

(2014, 16mm, HD video, multi-channel sound, 45’)
April 30, 2014

Mickey Mouse, 3 animated shorts, Walt Disney (1929-1935, digital transfer, 21’)
Dziga Vertov, The Eleventh Year, (1928, digital transfer, 53’)
May, 8, 2014,

The Passage of a Few, The Invisible College / Mariana Botey (2000, digital transfer, 16’)
Medium Earth, The Otolith Group (2013, digital video, 40’)
May 22, 2014

The Forgotten Space, Allan Sekula and Noël Burch (2010, digital video, 112’)
May 29, 2014


Spheres of Glass: Re-imagining Aesthetics of Nature and the Social. Unweave #4, co-edited by Katrin Pesch and Tim Ridlen with Elizabeth D. Miller, Melinda Guillen, and Mariana Botey, Discursive and Curatorial Productions Initiative (UC San Diego, Spring 2014).